All Pro Dad Darrin Gray
Writer / Kara Reibel
In 1997, while coaching for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Tony Dungy and Clyde Christensen teamed up with Mark Merrill, President and Founder of Family First. They decided to make a positive impact by hosting an event for dads and kids at the Bucs training camp. Anticipating a couple hundred participants, 4,000 showed up. Clearly they were onto something special, and All Pro Dad was born as a result. All Pro Dad focuses on enhancing inter-family relationships. Since its inception, the All Pro Dad organization has grown exponentially.
Hoosier Darrin Gray became actively affiliated with All Pro Dad while working with the Indianapolis Star who became the first local sponsor of All Pro Dad. “I attended an event with my then 6-year-old son and signed up to receive the enewsletters,” shares Gray. “Having experienced the events as a participant, it wasn’t long before I was volunteering, became a donor and started promoting the organization.”
The relationship between Gray and All Pro Dad solidified in 2006 when Gray was asked to produce a large All Pro Dad event which sold out. Based out of Tampa, the organization offered Gray a position knowing he would have a dynamic position of working out of his home as the other Directors live and work at the Florida office.
Gray’s title is Director of Corporate Partnerships, and thanks to modern technology and the nature of Gray’s job, he is able to keep a virtual office at home and stay true to the values of the organization – “family first.” Gray does travel frequently to the main office in Tampa. “Families get stronger because dads are getting better with the help of All Pro Dad,” says Gray. He keeps busy – All Pro Dad has 1,300 chapters nationwide with 102 located in Indiana.
The All Pro Dad mantra is “Give me a minute a day, hour a month and a day a year.” A minute a day to read The Play of The Day email, view their Facebook postings or watch Dungy’s Diary on their website or YouTube. An uninterrupted hour a month devoted to time spent with your child at an All Pro Dad’s Day breakfast. The one day a year is spent attending an All Pro Dad’s Father and Kids Experience at an NFL stadium. The 10th annual event locally at Lucas Oil will be the fall of 2016.
At a stadium event, the father/kids groupings are split into smaller teams and run through drills. One such example is the end zone celebration that results into an All Pro Dad hug. “As fathers, we may not have ever experienced an All Pro Dad hug, so we teach our attendees how to do it,” says Gray.
First, the child receives a handoff from their dad and runs the ball into the end zone where the child is instructed to perform a celebration dance. Next, just as in a real football game, the person who score then looks for a teammate for a congratulatory hug.
But the All Pro Dad hug is a special one. There is no “tapping” on the back as that is akin to “tapping out” and is a sign of being uncomfortable with the hug. For an All Pro Dad hug, the father and child hug, solidly, for a count of 15 seconds. The count is slow and is actually 30 seconds. According to research, the hug must occur for at least 20 seconds for the desired connection, resulting in bonding between the father and child.
“It’s a powerful moment,” shares Gray.
The All Pro Dad website is rich with content supporting their focus of strengthening family relationships. The Colts organization has been extremely generous to All Pro Dad over the years. Local events often feature Colts players. Most recently, HSE standout and Colts starting Offensive Lineman Joe Reitz was highlighted. Quarterbacks’ Coach Clyde Christensen and alumni Hunter Smith, Ryan Diem, Dylan Gandy and David Thornton are just of few guys who support All Pro Dad’s events.
“I am forever grateful to the entire Colts organization and so many Colts players that believe in me and the charity work of Tony Dungy’s All Pro Dad program,” shares Gray, who co-authored a book with Hunter Smith, “The Jersey Effect: Beyond The World Championship.”